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The Irish Cancer Society has urged the Government to remove and reduce charges, which are placing an additional burden on cancer patients, in Budget 2018.

Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, stated at the publication of the Society’s pre-Budget submission: “We hear stories of immense financial hardship from cancer patients nearly every day, and it’s clear that many are struggling to cope.

“The January increase in the inpatient charge from €75 to €80 per visit, which affects cancer patients undergoing treatment, merely adds insult to injury at a time when the State should be looking to reduce costs for patients”.

The commencement order, signed by Minister Harris to increase the charge to €80 per visit, capped at €800 a year, occurred despite indications from the Department of Health last September that the charge would not move beyond €75.

Mr Buggy continued: “Not only should Ministers Harris and Donohoe move to reduce the charge, which has increased by over 20 per cent in the past decade but the Irish Cancer Society is calling for the abolition of the inpatient charge, which is driving some hard-pressed patients to the wall”.

The society has made its Pre-Budget Submission to Government, outlining the financial burdens taking their toll on cancer patients, such as the €80 in-patient charge, the prescription charge and the cost of medicine. Cancer patients’ already have to face reduced income as a result of being out of work. The society has claimed that, combined with other payments associated with having cancer, cancer patients are being placed in a difficult position, struggling to meet the extra charges being levied by the Government.

Research entitled the ‘Real Cost of Cancer’, shows that cancer patients are crippled financially by the double blow of a reduced income and increased costs. According to the report, the average additional monthly spend among cancer patients surveyed, even those with a medical card or private health insurance, was €862, while those who cannot work, work less, or lose income as a result of having cancer, face an income drop averaging €1,400 a month, or €16,750 per year.

The charity has called for the abolishment of the prescription charge, the amount patients have to pay for medicine under the Drugs Payment Scheme to be lowered from €144 a month to €85, and for the inpatient charge of €80 to be abolished.

These changes could save cancer patients with medical cards as much as €300 a year, while those without medical cards could save the significant sum of €1450 per year.

Mr. Buggy called for change in the Government’s attitude towards cancer patients: “Since 2008, the Government has transferred the cost of being sick from the State to patients. People who are ill are less financially equipped to meet these payments than if they were well”.

Although he acknowledged that some efforts had been made to address this issue in the previous Budget, he claimed it failed to go far enough.

“While we welcomed the reduction in the prescription charge for people over 70, which took effect in March, we believe action is required that will benefit the entire cancer population.

“Cancer doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, which is why we are putting forward three key recommendations which will make a difference to everyone facing cancer, rather than one specific cohort”.